A year and a half ago ELCA pastors Matthew Pensinger and Brian Beissel took part in a conversation that was hosted by the Lehigh Valley Humanists (PA). It was called "Humanist/Lutheran Dialogue," and they posted the video on YouTube.
What follows is an intriguing view into the mind-set, thoughts, understandings and beliefs of two ELCA pastors. Their words are quite disturbing in what they believe but also in what they reveal about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America itself.
Discussing the interpretation of Scripture, Interviewer Jason Brocious asks, “What would it take to push things too far and get in trouble (with the ELCA)?”
ELCA Rev. Brian Beissel said, “I think to say you don't believe in Jesus or the divinity of Jesus. I think that would probably be the breaking point I think.”
ELCA Rev. Matthew Pensinger: “Maybe.”
ELCA Rev. Brian Beissel: “Maybe. I don’t know.”
ELCA Rev. Matthew Pensinger: “It depends on, you know, who complains about it and who they complain about it to.” (see video below, at around the 15 minute mark)
The ELCA pastors continued, next sharing their thoughts on the authority of Scripture.
ELCA Rev. Brian Beissel stated, “Let me say something about the authority of Scripture…in the Lutheran tradition, Martin Luther himself, well first of all when he put together his own Bible, the Luther Bible, he put the books of Revelation and Hebrews at the end of Bible and didn't number them, which tells you what he thought of those specific books, you know. Also he said, I believe this is a Luther quote, that Scripture is like the cradle or where the baby Jesus is placed. Meaning, does scripture reveal to us something about the essence of Christ? Yes. But does that mean everything in Scripture is, you know, is all of it inspired? Well yes, but I'm inspired by God too but and when I'm inspired by God I don't always do great things, you know, I mess up…”
ELCA Rev. Matthew Pensinger: “Some of it (Scripture) is a box covered with animal dung, is what is the point of that quote.”
ELCA Rev. Brian Beissel: “Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes”
So the ELCA teaches that God's Word is just a dirty, disgusting, smelly vessel that talks about Jesus? It is no wonder the ELCA rejects, twists and ignores many Biblical accounts and instruction.
Later in the video the interviewer mentioned a tragic situation and asked the pastors, “how do you look at prayer and how that fits into, can it help these situations and in what way can it?”
ELCA Rev. Brian Beissel replied, “I'm going to say something that if my congregants watch this on YouTube, sorry. Prayer without action is meaningless. I'm sorry, I'm sorry but it is. When you pray for something and ‘oh I’m a good person because I prayed for this’ and you don't put it in action it's just words.”
ELCA Rev. Matthew Pensinger: “…to me prayer is about centering oneself. It's about clearing, you know, the clutter from the mind and from the spirit. It's about prioritizing or re-prioritizing you know the things and so.”
What a warped view of prayer. One says prayer is meaningless without human action? The other says it is for one's self. They both went on and said their god is not a wish-granting fairy or genie. It sounded as if they do not believe in a God who answers prayers, performs miracles or takes part in believers' lives. This is the kind of pastor the ELCA has trained and ordained. They are in a place of authority. They are influencing the faith of their congregations.
If you are sitting under the teaching of an ELCA pastor, I highly recommend leaving.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. - Isaiah 53:2b-5
The Bible is God’s Word. It is true, it is right, it is accurate, it is without error, it is God-breathed. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a denomination that constantly denies Scripture, throwing its truth out the window in favor of their own thoughts, beliefs and feelings.
God’s Word tells us that Christ "'himself bore our sins' in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; 'by his wounds you have been healed'" (1 Peter 2:24, NIV). This idea is found throughout the Bible in such places like Isaiah 53:5, 1 Corinthians 15:3, Colossians 2:14, Hebrews 9:28 and Romans 4:25.
So what do we find being taught by an ELCA seminary president?
“(T)he cross is not about punishment for sin either. Not for Jesus’ sin, certainly, but also not for ours.” So says David Lose, President of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. David Lose, who previously was a professor at the ELCA’s Luther Seminary goes on to say:
“That is, of course, a tradition interpretation of the cross: that because God is just, God has to punish sin, and because God is loving, God beats up on Jesus instead of us. But I have a hunch that this understanding of the cross says more about our inadequate understanding of justice than it says about God. In contrast to this theory, I’d suggest that the cross is not about punishment but is instead about identification, solidarity, and love.” (read here)
This is against the witness of Scripture.
And please take note who seminary president David Lose is addressing as he writes. He begins his blog with “Dear Working Preacher,”
“Dear Partner, what might we say to people this Sunday?”
“That’s what we can tell our people, Dear Partner, and this, at last, is all promise. Thanks for sounding that message.”
President Lose is instructing pastors into this teaching and telling them to preach accordingly, indoctrinating the people in their congregations. That is scary. He is teaching something against God’s Word, to ELCA pastors who will take that false-teaching to the pulpit. Is there any wonder why so many Bible-believing Christians are calling on ELCA members to leave the denomination?
A couple of people challenged Lose in the comments section of this article saying,
“’The cross is not about punishment.’ Really? Then what of ‘sacrifice,’ ‘scapegoat,’ ‘passover lamb,’ and ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness’?”
“…biblical writers’ clear use of the model of the sacrifice of lambs (John 1:29; Hebrews 9, etc.). Paul employs often the substitution concept, to stand in our place under the law, to take the punishment we deserve (Galatians 4:4, Romans 3:21-26), and of course the familiar “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ came to take our place, to take unto himself our guilt, sin, and death, to give his li(f)e as a ransom (Mark 10).”
Because of those comments, Lose wrote another article where he says,
“I found our exchange in the comments last week kind of fascinating. You probably don’t read the comments, so I’ll recap briefly. The exchange centered on how we understand the cross and was prompted by a statement I made that ‘the cross is not about punishment for sin.’ Several folks questioned that, referencing Anselm’s substitutionary theory of atonement and the attendant Scriptural passages associated with it…Anselm’s view – echoed later by Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and Reformed theologians in North America – is one of the primary ways the Church, particularly in the West, has understood the cross and, indeed, is perhaps the dominant view today.
And yet all that notwithstanding, I have to say I find it utterly unconvincing and, indeed, rather off-putting and out of character with the God I know in Jesus.” (read here)
The most popular and beloved liberal ELCA pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber has a similar belief saying, “And just to be clear: The cross is not about God as divine child abuser sadly sending his little boy off to be killed because we were bad and well, somebody had to pay." (read here)
ELCA leaders continually walk in opposition to God’s Word.
Find out more about substitutionary atonement and why it is Biblically correct here.
Johnny Cash, Good Friday, the Resurrection and Redemption. What can be better?
Last month Antje Jackelén was elected the new archbishop of the Church of Sweden. Antje Jackelén use to teach in the United States at an ELCA seminary. She was a professor at the ELCA's Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. “From 2001-2007, Dr. Jackelén taught systematic theology and religion and science...and was director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science.” (see here)
Due to the election process in Sweden, we have the privilege of learning more about this former ELCA seminary professor, including what she believes.
Here is what has been reported:
While a professor of the ELCA, Antje Jackelén signed a letter declaring her support of evolution and rejecting the Biblical account of creation and Noah's ark. (see here) Promoting evolution is something she is known for in Sweden (read here)
I know it will not surprise anyone to also learn that former ELCA seminary professor Jackelén rejects the Biblical authority on homosexuality. She said this during a sermon she gave at the seminary (LSTC):
“Nevertheless, talking bodies and sex is difficult, especially in churches. We need to find holistic ways of talking about sexuality in church – that was one of the take-home messages from an LSTC leadership conference a couple of years ago. 'The church can't deal with homosexuality because we can't deal with sexuality,' claimed Rev. Jeremiah Wright nine months ago standing at this same lectern. He said so at a workshop for medical and religious professionals on HIV/AIDS.” Dr. Jackelén continues, “The incapacity of dealing with sexual love is not a marginal problem. It costs lives. When homosexual men are forced into heterosexual marriages, they are likely to spread a potential HIV infection to their wives. This happens in the Christian family, with fatal consequences. How can a church proclaim love of God and love of neighbor as the greatest commandments and at the same time sacrifice lives on the altar of the hypocrisy of so-called Christian morality?” (see here)
Rev. Paul T. McCain, made this comment following an article regarding the newly-elected archbishop Antje Jackelén:
“This is absolutely gut wrenching stuff. When I first read all this I just felt sick to my stomach. I have friends in Sweden who have been fighting for years against the apostasy that has overtaken the state church.
In some ways, the election of a person who is so openly apostate makes their task 'easier' simply in the sense that the issues are so starkly put on display for all to see.
Oh, and by the way, she has taught at the ELCA seminary in Chicago.
She frankly is simply saying what most every mainline protestant liberal church actually believes. The only 'secret' is that a huge number of laypersons simply are still kept in the dark about the degree to which outright apostasy has overtaken their churches.
Back when I was serving a parish in Iowa, in the early 1990s, a new ELCA pastor moved in and we paid a courtesy visit and as things happened, it was a very cordial chat so a fellow LCMS pastor and I asked her, 'Hey, what do you teach your folks about this?' And we pointed out to the cemetery next to her churches and the rows of tombstones.
She said, 'Oh, the resurrection? It's a wonderful story and so inspiring. Of course, I don't believe in a bodily resurrection of Jesus, but I preach about it, because that's what the people believe.'
We both just stood there in stunned silence for a few moments." (read here)
Why would a Christian denomination pay a lecturer to speak at their events who does not believe Jesus physically rose from the dead? Why would the same denomination recommend and use that lecturer's teaching resources when he doesn't even believe God exist? Those are good questions every lay person should be asking the leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The lecturer I am referring to is John Dominic Crossan, co-founder of the Jesus Seminar (read about it here) and popular New Testament scholar. Let me first show you the multitude of ways the ELCA has sought Crossan and provided access to his teachings, then we will document some specifics of what this man teaches and believes.
What does John Dominic Crossan teach and believe?
“Crossan says Jesus was an exploited 'peasant with an attitude' who didn't perform many miracles, physically rise from the dead or die as punishment for humanity's sins.
Jesus was extraordinary because of how he lived, not died, says Crossan” (read here).
The following are quotes by John Dominic Crossan from his book Who Is Jesus? (found here) "Do I personally believe in an afterlife? No, but to be honest, I do not find it a particularly important question one way or the other."
"Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us."
"Traditionally, Christians have said, 'See how Christ's passion was foretold by the prophets.' Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus' last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God."
"In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life." “The second coming will not be literal. The second coming is what will happen when we Christians accept that there was only one coming and get with the program.” (see here)
During this debate, we find out Crossan doesn't even believe in the actual existence of God -
“(Dr. William Lane) Craig: But surely that’s not a meaningless question. It’s a factual question. Was there a being who was the Creator and Sustainer of the universe during the period of time when no human beings existed? It seems to me that in your view you’d have to say no.
Crossan: Well, I would probably prefer to say no because what you’re doing is trying to put yourself in the position of God and ask, 'How is God apart from revelation? How is God apart from faith?'” (see here)
More Crossan quotes -
“In conclusion, what is the historicity of the burial account [of Jesus]? From Roman expectations, the body of Jesus and of any others crucified with him would have been left on the cross as carrion [dead and putrefying flesh] for the crows and the dogs. From Jewish expectations, would not Deuteronomy 21:22-23 have been followed? Maybe, but only the barest maybe…
But, even if it was, the soldiers who crucified Jesus probably would have done it, speedily and indifferently, in a necessary shallow and mounded grave rather than a rock-hewn tomb. That would mean lime, at best, and the dogs again, at worst.” (Who Killed Jesus?, 187, 188) by John Dominic Crossan
“The tales of entombment and resurrection were latter-day wishful thinking. Instead, Jesus’ corpse went the way of all abandoned criminals bodies: it was probably barely covered with dirt, vulnerable to the wild dogs that roamed the wasteland of the execution grounds.” John Dominic Crossan as quoted in Richard N. Ostling, “Jesus Christ, Plain and Simple,” Time, 10 January 1994.
What others say about John Dominic Crossan
- Hank Hanegraaff, Christian radio host says this about Crossan -
"Jesus Seminar cofounder John Dominic Crossan claims that there were dozens of virgin birth stories circulating in Greek and Roman mythology during the first century. Says Crossan, 'They’re all over Greek and Roman mythology, so what do I do? Do I believe all of those stories, or do I say all of those stories are lies except for our Christian story?'"
“The truth of the matter is that historical evidence for the veracity of extrabiblical virgin birth stories is nil.” (read here).
- Dennis Ingolfsland writes this of Crossan -
“Jesus was a 'peasant Jewish Cynic,' who never thought of Himself as the Jewish Messiah, much less the Son of God or the Savior of the world. This is the view held by John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, reputed to be one of the world’s leading experts on the historical study of Jesus. According to Crossan and others who share his view, Jesus was simply an itinerant preacher who taught that the kingdom of God had to do with how the world would be run if God sat on Caesar’s throne. Jesus’ ministry had nothing to do with helping people find God, salvation, or heaven.” (see here)
- Father Robert Barron, writing about Crossan says -
“How does Crossan explain the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? They are, he says, essentially 'parables,' figurative representations of the disciples’ conviction that Jesus’ way was more powerful than the Roman way. They were never meant to be taken literally but rather as poetic inspirations for the succeeding generations of Jesus’ followers.
How does he explain the church’s dogma of Jesus’ divinity? It is, essentially, a misleading overlay that effectively obscures the dangerous truth of who Jesus really was: a threat to the cultural, religious and political status quo.” (see here)
- Video of Dr. William Lane Craig answering a question about John Dominic Crossan's view on the resurrection of Jesus. (only 5 min. long)
- Here is a review of Crossan's book JESUS - A Revolutionary Biography by KIRKUS REVIEW
“Here, we get a politically correct Christ stripped of all mythology, a revolutionary social leader who taught 'radical egalitarianism' but performed no miracles, except that of awakening social consciousness (Crossan reads Jesus' casting out of demons as a blow against colonialism). This is, then, the Jesus of liberation theology, not of the Christian scholarly mainstream (up to now, Crossan has been best known for another unconventional and little-accepted theory, positing the existence of a 'cross gospel' that predates the passion narratives of the canonical texts). As usual, Crossan's scholarship is good, with a command of cultural anthropology, Greco-Roman history, and textual analysis. Eyebrows will rise often, though, as he goes beyond facts into conjecture: Jesus `did not and could not cure...disease' despite his laying-on-of-hands; Jesus never met Pilate or Caiaphas; the Barabbas tale is fiction (a dismissal based largely on Crossan's subjective reading of Pilate's personality), as are the Last Supper, the Raising of Lazarus, the Virgin Birth, etc. Moreover, at his most extreme, Crossan suggests that Jesus' body, far from being resurrected, was probably buried in a shallow grave and eaten by dogs.” (see here)
- Mark Allan Powell writes -
“Most Christians are aware that Jesus does many things in the New Testament that fulfill prophecies of the Old Testament. Skeptical scholars suggest that, in some instances, the Gospel writers are creating facts about Jesus in order to have him fulfill the prophecies. Thus, they invented the story of the virgin birth because Isaiah 7:14 speaks of a virgin bearing a son, and they decided to say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because Micah 5:2 indicates the Messiah will be born there. While a number of scholars may allow that such influences come into play here or there, John Dominic Crossan thinks that much (most?) of the Gospel accounts of Jesus came about this way--including everything in his last week of life.
According to Crossan, all the Gospel writers knew about that last week was that Jesus got grabbed by the Romans and crucified (possibly, according to Crossan, he was just caught up in a mob of Jewish rabble that got crucified for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Gospel writers, Crossan thinks, made up the rest--the stories about Jesus’ trial before Pilate, about the release of Barabbas, about Simon of Cyrene, the thief on the cross, the centurion’s confession, the burial in a garden, and of course the resurrection--the Gospel writers made it all up out of nothing to show that Jesus had fulfilled a bunch of Old Testament prophecies.” (see here)
There we have it. ELCA leaders seek out this kind of teacher (and others who think similarly, like Marcus Borg – see here). Is it any wonder the ELCA leadership has abandoned Biblical truth for their own “truth” or is this just a result of it? Heretics have control of the ELCA leadership and they teach in their seminaries. Pray for them and also for the people sitting in ELCA pews who they are trying to influence and bring toward their heretical beliefs.
Bible-believing Lutherans were upset a few years ago when they learned of numerous heretical and unorthodox articles from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. They were posted on the ELCA's official website under a section meant to explain the ELCA's beliefs and teachings, called “Dig Deeper.” The ELCA leadership took a great deal of well deserved heat for what the articles said and even though they never repudiated the articles or the teaching, with no apology, they removed them from elca.org.
Now with the help of a website which archives old web pages you can view the articles as they looked in 2009.
The ELCA took down these teaching webpages, but Exposing the ELCA has extensive evidence which shows that the ELCA leadership continues to believe, teach and allow these same heretical beliefs.
The ELCA teaches an interesting, non-orthodox view of Jesus' resurrection. Gnesio, an online magazine of Lutheran theology, writes:
The resurrection for the ELCA does not necessarily have to be a historic event, but something of faith. From their website: “All of this has led some scholars to write that the risen Jesus (and apparitions of the risen Jesus) is a supernatural reality which does not belong to this world and cannot be the object of historic investigation. Rather, Jesus’ resurrection is an object of faith.
Accordingly, ELCA members believe that what history does is to demonstrate the disciples’ faith in the resurrection. Their witness and testimony to Jesus’ post-death appearances make it abundantly clear that the resurrection was a primary object of the apostolic proclamation from Christianity’s very beginning.”
This view then means that it is not important whether Jesus is still dead in a tomb or not, just that you believe that He rose.
Cited from: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/The-Resurrection.aspx”
(see Gnesio article here. The ELCA removed the article cited by Gnesio from their website but here it is thanks to the wonders of the internet - http://web.archive.org/web/20091005023518/http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/The-Resurrection.aspx)
Mark C. Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE, writes of leadership in the ELCA that follow a Liberal Protestant (LP) theology. An “LP says that resurrection is spiritual or metaphorical, not physical, and LP often asserts that the apostles created a myth to cope with the tragic loss of their leader.” (read here)
I guess denying what the Bible says gets easier and easier in the ELCA, the more you do it.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Former ELCA seminary student and former ELCA member who is fed up with the ELCA's consistent mockery of God's Word.
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Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. - Ephesians 5:11